The case for signing Ben Sheets

You’ve seen the Sabathias, the Burnetts, even the Dempsters of this baseball world ink themselves up to big, big contracts. They were big names, Dempster less so than the other two, and were signed proportinately.

There’s one more starter out there, though, that’s not receiving a whole lot of pub. That man is Ben Sheets, former Milwaukee Brewer.

Many teams seemed scared by Sheets’s injury history and, to be fair, he doesn’t exactly have worry-alleviating medical records. But something like that could actually work in the Phillies’ favor.

Think about this: the Phillies are willing to give a 37-year-old-come-June left fielder a three-year-deal, want to re-sign a 46-year-old starting pitcher, and yet are scared off by a 30-year-old who, despite injury concerns, still boasts a career 116 ERA+.

Injury risk players are often the lowest risk, highest reward of the free agent market. They will often sign at a lower premium than the top tier names on the market, so even if they underperform or fall victim to injury again, the sunk cost isn’t nearly as painful as losing, say, CC Sabathia to rotator cuff surgery in March.

Sheets made 31 starts in 2008, the most he’d made since 2004. He’d only been good for about 20 or 21 starts in the three intermediate years, and he was forced to miss the NLDS against the Phils this past year because of another injury problem. All of this, admittedly, has kept him off the radar of a great many teams.

But consider, the Phillies need another proven starter given the difficulties in signing Moyer, and who better to slot in as a number three guy than Ben Sheets?

A career 4:1 K/BB ratio, a career 1.20 WHIP, and demands only somewhere in the neighborhood of two years, $20M? Personally, I think Jamie Moyer is a far bigger risk signing at that figure. There’s no chance he repeats his miracle 2008 season, and he’ll likely start to fall out of favor before the summer is over in 2009.

If Sheets should get hurt again and Moyer is not re-signed, that leaves Happ, Eaton, Kendrick, Chan Ho Park (presumably), and Carlos Carrasco to match wits for two vacancies. This would be the case regardless of which starter goes down during the year, Moyer included should he re-sign. Why not take a chance on a guy who has shown he can be quite effective when healthy?

Detractors, after harping on the injury thing, would point to a high HR/9 rate. Sheets typically gives up just over one homer per nine through his career. Well, you know who else has a high HR/9 rate? Cole Hamels. His is 1.2 homers per nine, but nobody ever really seems to bring that up, do they?

If people within this organization are going to list reasons why they wouldn’t take a chance on someone like Ben Sheets, they had best look within their own roster and offseason history first and see that the hypocrisy hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

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Filed under Offseason 2008-09

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